Speech delivered to Board of Education encourages support for educators

Published 10:46 pm Friday, July 22, 2022

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At the June 14, 2022, meeting of the Dare County Board of Education, Cape Hatteras Elementary School Principal Rachel Benton delivered the following speech during public comment”

“Good evening Chairman Twiddy, Vice Chair Bothwell, Members of the Board and Ms. Kinzel. My name is Rachel Benton and as you know, I am principal here at Cape Hatteras Elementary School.

“I could keep quiet no longer. I wanted to talk with you tonight about what this past year has been like for educators. I can emphatically say it has been one of the most difficult years in recent history, not just in Dare County, but across our state and throughout the nation.

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“According to the 2022 NC Teacher Working Conditions Survey that was just released a few weeks ago, 7,752 teachers responded that they are leaving education after the 2021-2022 school year. That is up from 3,485 in 2018.

“Those figures are alarming. But what is even more alarming is that our job is getting more difficult by the minute. Which means it is likely more teachers will continue to leave. What we are expected to do and BE for our students is unconscionable.

“What is most unfortunate is that we as educators have spent countless hours listening to those outside of education, while we are struggling, focus on topics and matters that actually have little to no bearing on what’s going on inside of our buildings. We have listened in amusement and sometimes horror as people argue about things that aren’t even real. This is all while we are losing some of our best teachers because we’re burnt out from lack of support. We need a lot of things. But what we definitely don’t need is more divisiveness. What we need is everyone to rally around us and help us in any way that that they are able. I know it sounds cliché, but it truly does take a village to raise a child. It takes all of us working together for a common goal which is to help each child reach their full potential.

“We cannot face another year like what we experienced this past year. We NEED the support of our community. Those of us on the front lines have suffered because much of the attention has been taken away from what really matters and has been placed on things that in the big scheme have very little impact on our children.

“What did have an impact is our children watching so many members of our community be unkind and is respectful to each other because they disagree. I am appalled and dismayed at the behavior of many adults within our community. I spend much of my time teaching children how to have healthy conflict with one another, teaching them that it’s OK to have different opinions, teaching them that it’s OK to want different things, teaching them that it’s OK to have hard conversations but it is never OK to be unkind and disrespectful.

“I am here to beg you to refocus and re-center on what’s important. Put down your swords. “Every teacher, every support staff, every administrator, every central office personnel and most importantly every student deserves this. We need you to be cognizant of how your behavior and attitudes affect everything we do. Enough is enough. As a community we must take a stand.

“Thank you for your time tonight. My prayer is that each of you feels the call to come together and reunite for the sake of our children.”